Superman the Ride at Six Flags New England

Why It Is the Best Coaster on the Planet (Earth and Krypton)

••• The Superman the Ride coaster at Six Flags New England soars to thrilling heights. © Arthur Levine.

Note: In 2009, Six Flags New England re-themed its popular Superman: Ride of Steel coaster as Bizarro. In 2016, it reverted back to the name, Superman the Ride.

It's not the tallest coaster. It's not the fastest either. But, IMHO, Superman the Ride at Six Flags New England is the world's best coaster. Here's why.

Up-front Info

  • About Guide Rating (0=Yich!, 10=Wow!): 10
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 9
    Intense speed, lots of negative and positive g-forces, extreme height

Superman the Ride sits in the back of the park, along the banks of the Connecticut River. Its imposing purple hill soars to incredible heights and dominates the Six Flags New England skyline. Like a flame that lures moths, the coaster beckons riders even as it threatens to light their adrenaline on fire and scare the kryptonite out of them. This Ride of Steel demands nerves of steel.

From the start, everything about Superman the Ride is coaster perfection. The cars have raised seats and low-slung sides. Instead of an over-the-shoulder harness (there are no inversions), an unobtrusive seat belt and a u-shaped safety bar add to the car's open and exposed feeling.

The coaster uses a traditional lift hill. The train click-clack-clicks up, up, up, and a-way up.

If you're able to get your mind off of the ensuing madness, the views of the river are lovely. The high-speed first drop is pure coaster nirvana. With a 70-degree angle of decent, the train accelerates to nearly 80 mph. It hugs the track and yields a surprisingly smooth ride throughout-- even at faster-than-a-speeding-bullet speed.

Superman the Ride Flies to the Very End

How can a coaster rise 208 feet and drop 221 feet? At the bottom of the first hill, the train enters an underground, fog-enshrouded tunnel. Incredibly disorienting, it is among the ride's best features. As the train leaves the tunnel to ascend the second hill, Superman the Ride delivers its first dose of delirious airtime. The coaster is an airtime-lover's dream.

Even after the train turns around and heads back towards the station, Superman the Ride never lets up. It's one of those rare coasters that positively screams until it hits the magnetic brakes at its conclusion. A series of camelback hills keeps the major airtime coming. The track then snakes in and around the park's DC Superheroes area before it dives into a second fog-filled tunnel. A couple of smaller bunny hills offer yet more airtime. A final banked helix sends Superman's riders flying into the station. The returning passengers invariably look elated and sport frozen grins born from equal parts of terror and joy. And that, my thrill-seeking friends, is the very essence of a great roller coaster experience.

Super-Duper Themeing is Mostly Superfluous

For the 2009 season, Six Flags "re-skinned" the coaster with the Bizarro theme.

Turning to the Superman comic book canon that originally inspired the ride, the backstory has something to do with Supe's archrival, Lex Luthor, the Daily Planet's Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, and the lesser-known character, Bizarro. Emanating from the planet Htrae (that's Earth backwards) in a mysterious alternative universe, Bizarro is similar to, but a weird opposite of, Superman. Hence, he sports a reverse "S" on his purple-caped uniform and is bent more on destruction than truth, justice, and the American way. What does all of this have to do with the coaster? Not much, really.

There are displays in the queue (which can easily stretch to three hours or more on busy days; consider getting a Flash Pass when it's especially long) that explain Bizarro's takeover of the Superman ride. Onboard speakers blast music and voice actors to advance the story.

By descending the first drop into a purple-fog-filled tunnel, riders supposedly enter into Bizarro's world. As it returns near the loading station, the train soars through a series of track-mounted "S" shields that change colors in perfect sync with the soundtrack. And huge flamethrowers ignite (a favorite coaster effect these days) during the latter third of the ride.

While the fire and color effects are fun, especially at night, the Bizarro add-ons are mostly window-dressing for what was already an incredible coaster. They don't take anything away; in fact, I still consider Superman/Bizarro to be the best steel coaster anywhere. If anything, Bizarro's new trains, which are more comfortable, eliminate the annoying ankle restraints, and provide a marginally smoother ride, make the coaster even better. But, I think most riders are screaming too loudly and are too engaged in the coaster's considerable thrills to give a great Caesar's ghost about the silly narration and storyline. Perhaps Six Flags should have opted for a music-only soundtrack.

There are coasters with similar layouts at Darien Lake (Ride of Steel) in New York and Six Flags America (Superman: Ride of Steel) in Maryland. While they are wonderful rides, everything about the New England version--the tunnels, the way the track integrates with the surrounding park, the airtime, the smooth ride, the relentless speed--is better. It's just an incredible coaster achievement. There is also a Bizarro coaster with nearly identical themeing at Six Flags Great Adventure. That ride, however, is a floorless coaster and has a completely different layout.

Can a roller coaster ride become a life-altering experience? Well, that may be stretching the truth. But, in Superman the Ride's case, not too far.